NBA viewing guide: Rockets and Spurs tip off season series


Rockets-Spurs tops Saturday's seven-game NBA slate.

Like us, the NBA is returning to normal after a comatose Thanksgiving followed by a hectic 13-game Black Friday slate. On Saturday, there will be seven games for your viewing pleasure, highlighted by a big matchup between Southwest Division rivals. Before the 8:30 p.m. ET tipoff, there are few things to munch on.


Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards

7 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass

The Washington Wizards were on a pretty good roll until running into the Indiana Pacers on Friday. Having just won five of their last six, Marcin Gortat (17) and Trevor Ariza (14) were the only Wizards to score double-digit points in Indiana. With Bradley Beal out of the lineup due to a stress injury in his right leg, John Wall was asked to shoulder a larger load and struggled, scoring eight points on 4-for-14 shooting. Washington lost 93-73.

The Wizards will need Wall to step up with Beal out once again for Saturday's game against the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks bounced back Friday with an 88-87 win over the Dallas Mavericks. Atlanta's defense held the Mavs scoreless for the final 3:26 of the game to secure the win and snap a three-game losing streak.

Reading material: Bullets Forever: OutclassedPeachtree Hoops: Defensive intensity fuels comeback

Chicago Bulls at Cleveland Cavaliers

7:30 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass

It took a few games, but the Chicago Bulls appear to have re-calibrated after the loss of Derrick Rose. On Friday, they won their first game in five tries, defeating the Detroit Pistons 99-79 behind trademark defense and 27 points from Luol Deng. Against the moribund Cleveland Cavaliers, the Bulls are heavy favorites.

The Cavs have dropped five straight games, their last three by double digits. They shot just 37.2 percent from the floor in a loss to the Boston Celtics on Friday. Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters were Cleveland's leading scorers, but went 7-for-16 and 7-for-18 from the field for 17 and 21 points, respectively.

Reading material: Blog A Bull: Bulls back in the win columnFear The Sword: 'We gotta be men'

Brooklyn Nets at Memphis Grizzlies

8 p.m. ET, NBA TV

Ah, the hapless Brooklyn Nets. They lost by 19 points Friday against the Houston Rockets, one game after beverage-gate, to drop them to 4-12 on the season and 2-10 in their last 12 games. On Friday, Jason Kidd benched all his starters except Brook Lopez for the second half, and the result was a strong fourth quarter, during which the Nets outscored the Rockets 33-22 (albeit in a blowout).

The Memphis Grizzlies are at home, where they have been surprisingly bad this season. They are 3-4 at FedExForum this season, and have lost three straight there. The Grizzlies will be plenty rested, having last played on Wednesday in Boston. The team is still without reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol in the middle, so they may still struggle stopping teams, even Brooklyn.

Reading material: NetsDaily: Memphis ... Home of the blues?Grizzly Bear Blues: How analytics are failing the Grizzlies

Main Course

Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs

8:30 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass

In a humdrum Saturday slate, the first meeting of the season between the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs clearly stands out. A hobbled Rockets squad will have a difficult task taking on a 14-2 Spurs squad that is undefeated at home.

James Harden returned Friday from a foot injury. He might have sat out the win against the Orlando Magic if not for the indefinite absence of Jeremy Lin. The Rockets beat their league-leading season scoring average with 114 points, but Harden was noticeably limited, scoring nine points on 1-for-4 shooting from the field and 7-for-7 from the free throw line in 26 minutes.

The Spurs' 11-game winning streak ended with a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, but they bounced back nicely with a comfy win over the Orlando Magic on Friday. San Antonio may also be hurting in the backcourt, with Tony Parker a game-time decision due to a knee injury.

Will Dwight Howard step up? Howard's acquisition was motivated in part by Houston's need to overcome the Spurs' frontcourt advantage in the division. The big man has been relatively quiet over the Rockets' ongoing four-game winning streak, however, averaging 12.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Howard struggled mightily against the Spurs while he was with the Los Angeles Lakers. If he can rise to the challenge Saturday, he will win over a lot of fans in Houston.

Will the Spurs' D step up? The Spurs' defense is second in the NBA allowing just 95.2 points per 100 possessions, but the Rockets are second in offense, averaging 111.7 per 100 possessions, via Basketball-Reference. Even with Lin out and Harden limited, the Rockets are plenty formidable with the ball. Along with Howard, Harden and Lin, Chandler Parsons and Terrence Jones are also averaging double-digit points per game.

Reading material: Pounding The Rock: The battle of I-10The Dream Shake: Rockets-Spurs preview

Side Dish

Minnesota Timberwolves at Dallas Mavericks

8:30 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass

While attention in Texas will justifiably be focused toward San Antonio, the Dallas Mavericks will be hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves concurrently in an intriguing matchup. The Timberwolves are looking to bust out of a three-game losing streak, but will try to do so on the road where they are just 2-6 this season. The Mavs have lost three of their last four, but are 8-1 this year at the American Airlines Center.

The Mavericks managed just 87 points in a loss to the Hawks on Friday, in what was their lowest scoring output of the season. Luckily for them, they face a Minnesota team that gave up 117 points to the Denver Nuggets in a loss on Wednesday. Points will be had.

Reading material: Mavs Moneyball: A statistical breakdown of Dirk Nowitzki's seasonCanis Hoopus: Wolves lose third straight


Utah Jazz at Phoenix Suns

9 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass

At 2-15 on the season, the Utah Jazz have the worst record in the NBA. They'll go on the road to take on a 9-7 Phoenix Suns squad that is streaking at the moment, with four wins in their last five games. The Suns just beat the Jazz 112-101 in Utah on Friday, and will be returning home for the rubber match. This game will not, admittedly, be the most watchable game of the evening.

The Jazz will be hoping to pick up their first road win of the season Saturday. To do so, they will need to play much tighter defense. The Suns shot 54.7 percent in the first game of the home-and-home. Phoenix's frontcourt led the way, with 51 points coming from the combined efforts of Channing Frye, Miles Plumlee and Markieff Morris.

Reading material: Bright Side Of The Sun: Offense picks up defense in winSLC Dunk: The Downbeat, 'Positive Spin' edition

Pass It On

Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks

9 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass

The Boston Celtics play good defense from time to time. The Milwaukee Bucks don't do anything particularly well, and are currently riding an 11-game losing streak. This is not a good game.

Reading material: CelticsBlog: How I learned to stop worrying and love the rebuildBrew Hoop: Bucks lose 11th straight

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